The 'new Episcopalians' of Southeast Florida

The Palm Beach Post has an interesting story about the "new Episcopalians" in Southeast Florida:

In the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida, which includes Palm Beach County, attendance is up or at least holding its own. This diocese is bucking a nationwide trend as a group of energetic reformers works to make their church meaningful to the very people who are drifting away from church — the young.

Younger people, said Tobias, “are tired of the old ways. They are not feeling the relevance.”

The changes may take the form of a backyard Mass for Spanish-speaking neighbors who can’t attend on Sundays because they are working. Or it may be a blessing of the animals, which is an unintimidating method of introducing young families to a parish. It may be a service designed just for children.

Holy Redeemer in Lake Worth was past its prime when Christina Encinosa arrived as pastor in 2004. Two years later, she had to preside over the demolition of the church, which was a kind of death for her congregation. Built in 1960, the church had structural problems aggravated by Hurricanes Frances and Jean. The small congregation regrouped in the church hall.

“When we took down the cross in 2006, I told them we would have to learn how to be a church,” said Encinosa, 34. “The church is not the building, the church is wherever we are.”

Read full story here.

Comments (6)

Out of curiosity, is the Diocese of Florida, especially in that area, known for having had dissenting parishes? In my neck of the woods, there was a parish that left over Gene Robinson and caused quite a furor over it, because it was the largest church in the diocese, and therefore largely funded the diocese's budget. It has taken a long time to replant another Episcopalian community in this area, and your story takes on added weight if Palm Beach County, for example, has had to deal with such dissenters.

The Diocese of Florida is very different from the Diocese of SE Florida. Here is a map of SE FL.

That doesn't quite answer my question. I can be faulted for assuming that the diocese doesn't cover one state (that's true in my state as well), but there are lots of states where the diocese's borders and the state's borders are one and the same. Pardon my confusion, but your answer doesn't tell me whether any of the dioceses in Florida have had breakaway parishes. I am aware of one, but I couldn't tell you what city it was based in. (I know this because I know of a priest that left Kansas for it.) So, please forgive me for my assumption, and for the stupidity or rudeness it implies.

Oh, Nathan, no one could ever, ever, ever,ever think you were stupid or rude for failing to keep track of the breakaways!

One way to find an answer to your question would be to find the ACNA website and see who they list in Florida. But - it is time to say my prayers and go to bed, at least in my time zone. May Christ's peace be upon you & yours -

Pamela Grenfell Smith
Bloomington, Indiana

Nathan, to answer your question, as I recall there were perhaps five congregations in the Diocese of Florida (comprising essentially northern Florida west to but not including the Panhandle) that separated in whole or in part, and perhaps a few more clergy. If you did a search here at the Cafe (yes, the Search function does work) using "Diocese of Florida" you'd probably find relevant news items.

In fact, as I recall it was a concern in their last episcopal election. A bishop with moderately conservative positions was succeeded by a bishop with somewhat more conservative positions; and was then found unacceptable to the unhappy congregations because he still attended meetings of the House of Bishops.

I can't speak to the status of any of those congregations now. However, I think they did decide early on that they wouldn't win property cases in court and made other arrangements.

Marshall Scott

Spanish language services are hardly new. Webcasts might be somewhat new... seems to me these people are thriving because they actually have the empowered involvement of ALL the demographic groups in their church instead of a single autocratic priest and/or a few chosen wealthy "deciders" making all the decisions with a passive laity just doing as they're told and writing the checks.

I especially liked this part:

Hobbs ran Holy Sacrament parish in Pembroke Pines for 25 years, building it from 60 people –the tipping point – to 520 when he left.
“Our biggest barrier as far as growth is within ourselves,” he said. “If you want to grow, it takes a different mentality. You have to let younger people loose to design something. And yes, it’s going to seem crazy for a while.”

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